ukraine bandera monument rally neo nazi
© Global Look Press / Pavlo Palamarchuk
A rally near the monument to Stepan Bandera in Lviv, Ukraine, on January 1, 2022.
Claims by Kiev's ambassador to Germany about a national hero have sparked an outcry in Poland and Israel

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has distanced itself from claims made by Kiev's ambassador to Berlin, which have sparked outrage in Poland and Israel.

Earlier the diplomat, Andrey Melnik, denied that Stepan Bandera - a controversial Ukrainian national hero who collaborated with the Nazis during WWII - was implicated in the mass murder of Jews and Poles.

There are "no issues" that divide Kiev and Warsaw now, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday as it praised Poland for supporting Ukraine in its ongoing conflict with Russia. Both nations understand "the need to preserve unity," it added.

Andrey Melnik, Ukraine ambassador to Germany

Andrey Melnik, Ukraine ambassador to Germany
"The opinion that the Ambassador of Ukraine to Germany Andrey Melnik expressed in an interview with a German journalist is of his own and does not reflect the position of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine," the statement added.

The comment came after Poland's top diplomats demanded Kiev clarify its stance on Bandera and his role in the massacre of Jews and Poles, committed by Ukrainian nationalists along with the Nazis, during the WWII.

On Friday, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz sharply criticized Melnik's views on Bandera. "Such an opinion and such words are absolutely unacceptable," he told the online news portal Wirtualna Polska. Such words "are inconsistent with reality," "do not help," and drive a wedge between Kiev and Warsaw, he added

"We are interested in the position of the Ukrainian government," Przydacz said.

Poland's Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said on Friday he contacted Ukraine's top diplomat, Dmitry Kuleba, over what he called "false statements on history" made by Melnik. Rau also thanked Kuleba for "a quick public intervention" on the matter.

The Israeli embassy in Kiev also denounced Melnik's words, calling them an "insult" to the memory of Ukrainian nationalists' victims. "The statement made by the Ukrainian ambassador is a distortion of the historical facts, belittles the Holocaust and is an insult to those who were murdered by Bandera and his people," the embassy statement read, according to the media.

Speaking to German podcaster Tilo Jung on Wednesday, Melnik repeatedly denied Bandera's involvement in any massacres committed by Ukrainian nationalists and Nazi collaborators during WWII on the territory of the modern-day Ukraine, and insisted he was a hero and a freedom fighter who "acted in a very difficult environment" and had no need to abide by rules.

"There are no laws for those who fight for freedom," Melnik told Jung at that time, insisting Bandera "was no mass murderer of Jews and Poles." According to data brought up by Jung during the interview, Bandera's followers, along with the Nazis, murdered a total of 800,000 Jews as well as up to 44,000 Poles in Ukraine during World War II.

It is unclear how exactly Kiev resolved the issue, since Melnik appeared to double down on his statements after the interview. On his Twitter page, the outspoken diplomat shared a post by Sergey Sumlenny, former head of the Kiev office of Germany's Heinrich Boell Fund, where he called on Germans to "humbly shut up about Bandera at last, or (better and recommended) kneel and ask for forgiveness." Melnik's caption to the post read: "Worth reading."